The school holidays don’t seem to end because there is nothing to do due to the pandemic. The teenager spends most of her days in bed. Christiane Tauzher strives every day to lure her daughter out of her sleeping alcove, at least for a moment. Sometimes with a surprising outcome.
The holidays were really long. The bringing forward of the curfew in Austria to 10 p.m. made a significant contribution to this, because going out was possible but pointless. The teenager cemented herself in a bad mood, lamenting that if we didn’t survive the winter “like normal people” in the Maldives, at least we could live closer to the center. It is an impertinence for them to be stuck in no man’s land from where they need forever to get “somewhere”. We made the mistake of not immediately moving to a more populated part of town, and so the teenage girl became one with her bed.
The mattress seemed to suck her in a little more each day. The hollow in which she lay seemed to me to be getting deeper and deeper. Like a sediment, it was just waiting to be deposited.
To slow the process, I shooed her out of the trough at least twice a day. “Get up,” I shouted happily, “the sun is shining!” Or, if it was cloudy and wet: “It’s a glorious winter’s day, so you can clear your head.” Or, when it began to get dark: “It’s almost blue hour. Up, up!” Or, when it was already dark: “Let’s go for a walk and look at the Christmas lights on the houses.” (Admittedly, the Christmas lights were the worst at getting her up.) Sometimes it was up to ten minutes before anything stirred under the covers.
What always helped was: “Oh, your cell phone is lying there so lonely and abandoned. Let’s see…” Whoops, she rolled to the side, looked at me from narrowed slits and fired a poisoned dart at it others in my direction. Then when she stood on her feet, unfolded to her full height, it cracked until all the bones were in place. “Are you happy now?” she pressed out.
I very happily said “no” and herded her away from the bed, which exuded dangerous attraction while it was in sight.
Help around the house? Play with little brother? To walk the dog? To do sports? Cook? clear away? Dishwasher? Laundry? Read? Learning (for the driver’s license)? Side trip?
She got up. She was “extremely” accommodating to me. “Doing something” was never mentioned. She was tired from the pandemic. She was “scientifically proven” mentally exhausted. She was “absolutely unable” to pull herself together. At least not when it came to taking on work. If, on the other hand, there was a call from the group of friends to get together, there was a lot of activity in the bathroom. Plugged up with loud music, she meticulously prepared herself from head to toe.
“So,” said Olaf to his daughter one bitterly cold January day, “that’s enough. If something doesn’t change, we won’t get any more money.” Tired rolling of eyes, silent exit to her room, key-in-lock-turning noise.
The next day, independent departure at dusk.
The power of a classic
“Where are you going?”
“I’m meeting someone at Hanusch Hospital.” (Note: This is 20 km away.)
“Why? What are you doing there?”
“I have to pick something up.”
“Oh, you drive more than an hour in the drizzle to the Hanusch Hospital, change trains three times to pick up a book? What kind of book is that?”
“‘The Physicists’ by Friedrich Dürrenmatt.”
I caught my breath. The teenager wanted to read “The Physicists” and take a trip around the world for it? Could it be?
“Er, may I ask why you don’t buy the book at the bookstore around the corner?”
“You don’t give me any money. So I organized it for 1.50 euros via an online flea market. 1.50 euros, I just got it.”
There was great pain in her blue eyes at the injustice we had done her. She stood in front of me, arms hanging, ready to make the long journey across town to get a used copy of The Physicists. It worked.
I felt miserable in a second. What a mother I was. The child wanted/should read a classic for school and didn’t dare ask for money to buy it. Oh, we had come a long way. I suggested first asking the old neighbors with PhDs if they had the book in their libraries.
She waved him off. It’s too late now, she has the seller’s word and has to go now. She looked incredibly sad. A cold wind blew winter in our faces through the open door.
“But that’s nonsense,” I said, “you know what, I still have to go shopping anyway, so I can bring you the book from the bookstore.”
I stepped out into the cold.
She snuggled back into the warm hollow.
And the moral of the story: in the end, love always wins.